Through the first three games, Seattle did an effective job of staying out of the penalty box and not handing the offensive juggernaut of Portland unnecessary man-advantages. That was not the case in Game 4.
Seattle defenseman Jerret Smith scored twice, including an empty-net goal at 18:34 of the third period, to give the T-Birds a 2-1 series lead.
Barzal scored scored the game-winning goal at 17:18 to cap a late third-period rally by the lower-seeded Thunderbirds.
The biggest award, though, went to overage goaltender Taran Kozun. Kozun, 20, was named the team’s Most Valuable Player after a season in which he finished with a 2.41 goals against average.
Seattle completed its regular-season series with the Winterhawks with a superior 7-4-1-0 record over their bitter Interstate-5 rival. The series was really a tale of two halves with the T-Birds winning five of the first six and Portland taking four of the final six.
True, 17, played sparingly Tuesday in his first game action since suffering a wrist fracture January 13 against Spokane.
Eansor capped a four-goal third period for Seattle (35-25-4-5) with the easiest goal of the bunch. His empty-net goal tallied his first career Western Hockey League hat trick in an eventual 7-3 victory over their U.S. division-rival in front of 6,084 at the ShoWare Center.
Wardley’s hits set the tone for the way Seattle likes to play. Because of his presence, Seattle is able to match up well with most top lines around the Western Hockey League. When Wardley is on the ice, opponents notice.
In the 12 games over the month of February, the unit’s scoring production wasn’t consistent with their activity. Not one of the three forwards topped seven points for the month in which they combined for 18 as a group.
The seven point difference separating Seattle (31-23-4-4) and Portland grew to nine with Seattle’s 5-2 loss Saturday in front of 5,035 at the ShoWare Center. With 10 games to play, the deficit appears insurmountable.